Philippines Independence Armies


1896 - 1902



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I am indebted to Pedro Antonio V. Javier for his pioneering research into the uniforms and insignia of the early Filipino soldier.


The evolution of Philippine revolutionary insignia can be divided into three basic periods; early Katipunan, late Katipunan and republican army.  The early Katipunan insignia appeared in 1896 at the beginning of the first uprising against Spain.  It consisted of red patches with mostly a series of white bars or symbols, or the letter "K", singularly or repeated up to three times.  These patches were worn on the front of the shirt or jacket, or as an armband.  Several sources document slightly different patterns of badges, two of which are shown below.  I am not aware of any period photos that show this early rank insignia in use or of any extant examples.


 A Katipnan rank chart published in The Inhabitants of the Philippines by Frederic Sawyer, 1900

Illustration courtesy of Pedro Antonio V. Javier

Early Katipnan badges as researched by Pedro Antonio V. Javier.

In October, 1896 these awkward designs were changed to more systematic and military looking cuff ranks.  These were worn as a series of red braids and loops for officers and chevrons for NCO's. 

Illustration courtesy of Pedro Antonio V. Javier

Cuff rank as adopted in October, 1896


Images showing the 1896 pattern cuff rank are rare.  Shown here are two of the few known.  The photograph on the left shows Lt. Colonel (later General) Lazaro Makapaga, the one on the right several high ranking officers including Gen. Pantaleon Garcia (#2) and Gen. Mariano Noriel (#3).  Although both images are of poor quality, the 1896 pattern cuff rank insignia is visible.

An NCO displaying his rank chevrons on both upper sleeves.  Without color it is difficult to determine if these are red 1896 chevrons or those of green authorized in 1898. 

With the renewal of the revolution in 1898 and its appeal spreading beyond just the Katipunan faction, the army became a force for the broader republican movement.  New rank and branch of service insignia was adopted which reflected the more professional nature of the army.  Rank was now displayed by a series of silver or gold five pointed stars on shoulder boards of different colored cloth that designated branch of service.  NCO's now wore green chevrons.


As with the army's uniforms, the artist Juan Luna, brother of General Antonio Luna, is often credited with the design of the 1898 insignia.  Actual period documentation of this, however, has not come to my attention.  I would greatly appreciate anyone with information concerning Luna's role in the design of the army's uniforms and insignia.

A chart taken from Aguinaldo's headquarters during his capture by Americans and Filipino scouts under the command of Frederick Funston in 1901.  It shows republican rank insignia during the latter part of the war.


A pair of shoulder boards collected between 1900 and 1903 by an American civilian government official in the Philippines.  They appear to be a non- regulation pattern of Lt. General's insignia.  The brass badge, which appears upside down, has the same mythical sun face and three stars rising over a mountain range motif found embossed on Filipino uniform buttons.  The three sets silk cords in the national colors simulate what would have been metal bars on regulation straps.

A pair of infantry Captain's shoulder boards with silver rank stars on red cotton flannel with a pasteboard stiffener and check cotton on the underside.  The photo shows these straps with an extra rank star on the original Philippines Constabulary reference card with notes detailing their capture in 1903.  Major Harry Bandholtz souvenir.


Another pair of infantry Captain's shoulder boards with silver rank stars on red cotton flannel with a pasteboard stiffener and check cotton on the underside.  Souvenirs of Major Harry Bandholtz.

Courtesy of the David Washburn collection.

Infantry 1st. Lieutenant's rank insignia of silver stars and wool discs in branch of service color pinned directly to a rayadillo uniform's shoulder strap.  Major Harry Bandholtz souvenir.

Artifact courtesy of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

Shoulder board on the rayadillo Norfolk pattern tunic of Major Natividad, a Filipino infantry officer, captured in the mountains east of Sal Sona, Northern Luzon on Dec 13, 1899 by Col. Webb C. Hayes.  The stars are gold colored, now tarnished with age, and one is missing.  The hole where it was once pinned can be seen in the center between the remaining stars.

Yellow and white cotton Corporal's chevron trimmed in black.  This chevron matches the pattern shown on the chart taken from Aguinaldo's headquarters in 1901(see above).  The chevron is shown with its original capture note.


Three variations of the silver rank stars on red cotton, indicating that they are for an infantry officer.  Bandholtz souvenir.

Military Administration officer silver rank star on rayadillo.  Bandholtz souvenir.

unidentified shoulder Insignia

Shoulder strap of the revolutionary period based on the design of the Philippines flag.  The unit and purpose of this strap are currently unknown.

Unknown epaulets formerly displayed in a private museum in Ohio.  Although the buttons used are US Army, the epaulets are reported to be Filipino (they are definitely not US) and came with the cockade with the tin star shown below.

Hat Cockades and Badges


Hat cockade of cotton on a paper backing with silver 'Sun Face' insignia.

Artifact courtesy of the Minnesota Historical Society #1983.4.26

A stamped metal cockade made in zinc with painted finish and applied silver triangle.

Artifact courtesy of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

Remains of a silk cockade still affixed to the straw hat worn by Major Natividad, a souvenir of Col. Webb C. Hayes.


Artifact courtesy Minnesota Military Museum

Hat cockade of silk and cotton.

Hat cockade of wool flannel on pasteboard with a tin star insignia.


Insignia on the left courtesy of the Rutherford B. Hayes Presidential Center

Variations of the silver cockade 'Sun Face' insignia.  Badge on the left has the Katipunan "KKK" initials and was captured by Col. Webb C. Hayes.  The insignia in the center has a red wool backing and is a souvenir of Major Harry Bandholtz.  On the right is another variant of the triangle badge on the remnant of a cockade with its pasteboard foundation.


Branch of Service Collar Insignia

In addition to shoulder boards made in branch of service colored fabric, metal collar badges were also worn to signify unit identity.  While shoulder boards were widely worn by officers, collar insignia is seen less often in period photographs.

A Spanish press photo from Manila dated 1899 showing a variety of Philippine Republican Army insignia.  From top they are:

  From top to bottom, left to right.

  1. Hat Badge.  2. General's Rank Star.  3. Officer's Rank Star.  4. Engineer.  5. General Staff.  6. Artillery.

  7. Infantry.  8. Cavalry.  9. Rifleman.  10. Intendancy - Quartermaster.  11. Signals.  12. Medical Service.

13. Hat Cockade.


The rifleman insignia on the right is courtesy of the David Washburn collection.

Left: Infantry collar insignia in brass with the unit number "7".  Note that the number is upside down an may have been intended to represent the number "4".  Center: General Staff insignia in brass.  Right: Rifleman insignia in brass with a red wool background and a Spanish style script unit number "1".  All are Major Harry Bandholtz souvenirs.


All material is Copyright 2008, 2012 by William K. Combs.  No portion may be used without permission.